We’re All in This Together: Teamwork and Unity

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

Mike Krzyewski is college basketball’s all-time winningest coach. Duke basketball fans know him as Coach K because he has been head basketball coach at Duke University since 1980. And he knows a few things about teamwork and unity.

“When you first assemble a group,” he once said, “it’s not a team right off the bat. It’s only a collection of individuals.”

And each of those individuals is … well … individual.

So, how do you get a gaggle of formerly disconnected individuals to become a team, working together successfully toward a common goal? Psychologists recently proposed the existence of a “collective intelligence factor” for teams. They call it the c-factor, for short. A recent New York Times opinion piece summarized the studies. Here’s what those studies uncovered: When seeking the characteristics of successful teams, researchers discovered that a team’s success correlates with three common attributes:

  1. All members contribute equally to group discussions, without allowing one or two individuals to dominate.

  2. Team members can read emotions in the eyes of their teammates.

  3. The team is composed of more women than men.

I know. One of these things is not like the others. Why do teams work better with women? The scientists suspect that women, on average, are better at reading emotions, one of the key correlations of successful teams.

Teamwork can seem like a bit of a tired buzzword these days, but it is extremely important to us at The High Calling and the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. David Rogers, president of the H. E. Butt Family Foundation, has made it one of our core expectations. He unpacks the idea like this:

“Through shared responsibility, we serve others well. Departments and individuals respect and help one another as challenges and opportunities arise.”

In other words, we’re here for each other. Respecting others means allowing members to contribute equally to group discussions. It means reading each other’s emotions.

In a culture that encourages us to think about “me first,” it’s refreshing to remember we are, indeed, stronger together. Just like the old African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Maybe all we really need to know about teamwork comes down to this advice:

“ … no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of … What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own … When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons.” (See 1 Cor. 12:19-24)

And so, there it is again: We are here for one another. Extroverts. Introverts. Word people. Numbers people. Visionaries. Detail people. Speech writers. Speech givers. Leaders. Followers. And everyone in between.

Bring what you’ve got to the table, and recognize the important role you play as part of the team. Resist the urge to assign more value to one personality type over another—whether your own or someone else’s. We’ve all seen teams get distracted when one person hogs the ball or the spotlight. In contrast, we’ve seen the beauty of a team that works really well together, while at the same time serving one another with humility.

Humility creates space for everyone to contribute. Humility values others enough to tune in to their emotions. In an NPR interview, David Brooks, author of The Road to Character, reminds us to keep a balanced perspective, without allowing space for boasting. Here’s an excerpt from that interview:

The day after Japan surrendered in 1945 and World War II ended, singer Bing Crosby appeared on the radio program Command Performance. "Well it looks like this is it," he said. "What can you say at a time like this? You can't throw your skimmer in the air—that's for a run-of-the-mill holiday. I guess all anybody can do is thank God it's over."

New York Times columnist David Brooks cites this and other aspects of that 70-year-old radio program as evidence that America once marked triumph without boasting.

"I was really struck at this supreme moment of American triumph that they weren't beating their chests," he tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "They weren't super proud of themselves; they were deeply humble. And I found that so beautiful and so moving. And I thought there's really something to admire in that public culture."

This is our goal as people of faith: serving one another with humility and working together as a unified group. That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree or see the world the same way. But, we can live into the role we’ve been given, recognize and honor the significance of each person’s contributions, and serve one another with respect as challenges arise.